Nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati, Ohio, is a city steeped in history, culture, and vibrant neighborhoods. Known as the “Queen City,” Cincinnati boasts a rich variety of attractions that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, an art lover, or an adventure seeker, Cincinnati has something to offer everyone.
Cincinnati may not be the first city that comes to mind when considering weekend getaways. However, I went on this one-night trip to meet my best friend during her layover there. Even though my time was short, I was eager for a change of scenery from the constant Florida heat and the never-ending routine of scrolling through my phone and checking work emails. As usual, I had a list of places I wanted to visit, but ultimately, I would have been content walking the neighborhoods, zillowing the real estate, and drinking coffee if all else failed.
Lunch: Culinary Delights in Downtown Cincinnati
Upon our arrival at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter, we began our day with lunch. Rather than wasting time browsing our phones for lunch options, we opted to visit Findley Market, Ohio’s longest continuously operating public market, which attracts over a million visitors annually. At the market, locals and tourists can indulge in locally sourced, farm-fresh produce and specialty foods. Findley Market is open year-round on Tuesdays through Sundays. On weekends, the open-air outdoor Farmers Market hosts street performers and special events that are enjoyed by the entire city.
We grabbed a coffee and began to slowly weave in and out of the small vendor stalls. I practiced great restraint by not buying a plant from every specialty plant shop I wandered into. However, I practiced less restraint in sampling the homemade baklava and banana bread. After sufficiently covering everything the Findley Market had to offer, we made our way to Pho Lang Thang for a warm bowl of Pho and spring rolls.
Afternoon/Evening: Art & Culture
There were numerous activities in Cincinnati, but our time was limited. Some of the options we contemplated included:
A Tour of the Great American Ballpark – Even if there isn’t a game, you can still tour this iconic stadium. Learn about the history of the Cincinnati Reds and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the ballpark.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – This powerful museum educates visitors about the history of slavery and the Underground Railroad’s role in helping enslaved individuals escape to freedom. The exhibits are informative and moving, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
Cincinnati Art Museum – Located in the picturesque Eden Park, this world-renowned museum showcases an impressive collection of art representing various cultures spanning 6,000 years. Admission is free, allowing you to explore art and culture without spending money.
Krohn Conservatory – The Krohn Conservatory is a beautiful botanical garden that houses a fantastic collection of plants from various parts of the world. It is a huge greenhouse divided into different sections to create the perfect environment for the different types of plants in the collection. For example, the Fern Greenhouse has a humid and moist climate perfect for algae to grow, while the Desert Greenhouse is hot and arid; plants receive less than 10 inches of water annually. Each section of the greenhouse is like a mini trip around the world that can be enjoyed in less than an hour.
Cincinnati’s American Sign Museum
There are numerous options available that cater to different preferences. For our afternoon activity, we chose to visit the American Sign Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of commercial signs, spanning over a century of sign history, design, and technology, all displayed in a 20,000 sq ft building. Along with floor-to-ceiling glowing neon signs, the American Sign Museum is home to Neonworks of Cincinnati, a full-time neon sign workshop building neon signs for the modern day.
The American Sign Museum is a museum you can explore at your own pace. As I walked through each room, I was surrounded by a vibrant spectrum of colors. I observed the evolution of flashing colored light bulbs to the more delicate tubes of neon. The museum’s “Main Street USA” area displayed the most impressive and extensive collection of neon signs. There, popular American companies’ signs competed to outshine one another. The largest and most recognizable sign was the McDonald’s neon sign, which was only partially refurbished. The museum restored one side to its original beauty after being donated, while the other half was left untouched to showcase the effects of weathering and years of exposure to the elements.
I suggest watching an informative video explaining the history and evolution of storefront commercial signage, available inside the museum. This video provides insights into the signs displayed within the museum, their original locations, and the process of refurbishing them to make them suitable for the museum.
Goebel Park Oktoberfest
After leaving the American Signs Museum, my brain created a playlist interchanging Alan Jackson’s Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow lyrics and Brooks and Dunn’s Neon Moon until the two songs melted into one and formed an endless loop. Needing a change of scenery and music, we headed to Goebel Park for the annual Oktoberfest celebration. The combination of the Oompha Band and a pumpkin beer washed away the lingering early 90s country music from my head.
While Oktoberfest is a popular event, this is a seasonal event. Luckily, Cincinnati offers a year-round beer culture that can be enjoyed by visiting local breweries.
Rhinegeist Brewery: Rhinegeist is one of Cincinnati’s most well-known breweries in the historic Over-the-Rhine district. They offer brewery tours where you can learn about the brewing process and sample their diverse range of craft beers.
Esoteric Brewing Co: Revered as Cincy’s most beautiful taproom, Esoteric Brewing focuses on creating craft beer using locally sourced and organically grown ingredients. Indoor and outdoor seating allows weekly events such as trivia and live music to bring a sense of community while enjoying beers with friends.
Fermentorium – The Fermentorium is like a laboratory specializing in creating small-batch beers with flavors including cherries and blueberry cream, all aged in an assortment of recycled oak barrels. Suppose beer isn’t your drink of choice, or you want to bring a tropical oasis to middle America. In that case, Fermentorium has curated a tiki cocktail menu that serves up the fun and relaxation of being on island time.
Whichever place you choose to dine after a fast-paced day of exploring Cincinnati, it will easily take you into the evening as the sun sets over the city’s skyscrapers.
Morning: Breakfast and Departure
Having walked most of the city the day before, we opted for one last stroll from packing and heading to the airport.
My mission before starting any day is to seek out the closest coffee shop for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Within walking distance of our hotel was a tiny coffee shop called Haven Cafe. The inside fits 4 or 5 people at most, but there is ample outside seating. Each breakfast sandwich is made to order, making service a bit slow. While we waited, we staked our claim at an outdoor table and enjoyed a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and a honey latte.
In contrast to the Florida heat we escaped just 24 hours earlier, the morning air was cool and dry. As I enjoyed the last sips of my coffee, we took one last walk along the Ohio River in the Historic Riverside District. This was undeniably the best place to get a panorama view of Cincinnati’s downtown shimmering glass buildings. At night, this is the best place to catch the fireworks from the Cincinnati Reds Baseball game.
Along the riverwalk are bronze statues of some of the people who helped build Cincinnati into the city it is today. Here, at the bronzed statue of John A. Roebling, I learned about the engineering feet of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. In 1867, this bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The design of the Roebling Bridge may look familiar as the same builder and design was used to build the famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
Cincinnati is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and culinary delights into a 24-hour adventure. From the historic Over-the-Rhine district to the cultural gems scattered throughout the city, this Queen City has a little something for everyone. So, whether you’re exploring the city’s past, indulging in its culinary treasures, or immersing yourself in its vibrant arts scene, Cincinnati is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories of your 24-hour journey through this captivating Ohio gem.
The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article. If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, I’d love to hear about it to update the article. Use the comments section below. Thanks!